Author: WANG Fu-Tung 王福東
M.A., School of Arts and Design, Eastern Michigan University
Associate Professor, Tainan National University of the Arts
Editor-in-Chief, Art Critique of Taiwan
General Editor, Lion Art Monthly
General Editor, Supplement, Pacific Times, California, U.S.
Editor, China Times, U.S.
Hall of Fame – Contemporary Art in Taiwan《大寫藝》
Liang Ping-Cheng: Nova Art of Additions, Newly Created in Taiwan
On September 5, 2012 whist I was still enjoying my summer holiday last year by browsing Face Book for overseas classmates in the U.S., I noticed a post from Liang Ping-Cheng. He showed a piece of wood almost “as gigantic as a carrier”. The YY Artist (Liang’s nickname his friends call him by) said, “I will sculpt until I drop”. I saw this message from the other side of the Pacific Ocean and was so moved.
1. Like a Moth to a Flame
At that time, I already started the writing of “Hall of Fame – Contemporary Art in Taiwan”. When I saw the achievement of my classmate Liang on Facebook, I hesitated to press Thumbs Up. I just looked at his stout figure and thought my goodness! There are not many dedicated artists like him these days. Many people run away from the art world because of difficulty in making a living. Liang remains as committed as ever, like a moth into a flame, without regret. I was so amazed and impressed when I witnessed his achievement, even from a foreign land.
I was already thinking that I needed to include Liang’s wood sculpture in my book “Hall of Fame – Contemporary Art in Taiwan”. After seeing how committed he is as an artist, I had to quickly write up this article.
The story about Liang starts with the year 1982 when he and his classmates in Department of Fine Arts, Chinese Culture University founded “Art Group of Silly Birds”. Other founding members included Yang Chi-Fu;Lee Min-Chung;Yang Ren-ming; Akibo Li; Sun Lichuan and Ray J.C. Liao. According to an interview with Lee Min-Chung, the name “Silly Birds” was Liang’s idea. During the sophomore year, a press media wanted to interview YY. At that time, he felt that he needed to give where he lived a name, so he came up with the name “Silly Birds Villa”. However, the idea of “silly birds” was from YY’s experience when he served in the military in Penghu. He often watched sea birds take off against gusty winds in winter. He felt these birds were so stupid that they had to take wings by going against the winds. Later he had come to a different interpretation. This was about “braving on”. So, he told himself that he should be like a “silly bird” in the pursuit of ideals in art.
2. Seeing things in different perspectives
No wonder YY posted on Facebook “I will sculpt until I drop” in front of a piece of wood “as gigantic as a carrier”, as I described at the start of this article. It is with this dedication that his works stood tall in the InSian Gallery in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008. Liang’s sculptures are noted for grandeur and magnificence. Some extra-large pieces are placed horizontally so that people who pass by on the other side of the street can see his works standing firmly at the center of the InSian Gallery.
Liang’s style is neither classical nor lavish. However, his wood sculpture and wrought iron works are intriguing to look at from different angles. This can be described with the quatrain from the poet Su Shi’s Inscription on the Wall of Xi-Lin-Si Temple:
“Looked it from across, it forms a ridge.
But from the side, it becomes peaks.
Far and near, high and low, each look is different.
The reason I do not know the true face of Mount Lu
Is because I am standing right on this mountain.”
When Hu Lancheng, a romantic scholar in Shanghai in the 1940s, was courting Eileen Chang, he quoted this poem in celebration of Chang’s writings. It was the sentences “Looked it from across, it forms a ridge. But from the side, it becomes peaks” that touched Chang’s heart. It was with this artistic admiration that Hu finally eventually took Chang’s hand. It was no wonder that Chang went back to Wenzhou to visit Hu after their divorce. This story illustrates the power of looking at things from different perspectives. The same method seems very suitable for us to examine Liang’s works, full of majesty and dignity, so powerful that both Jay Chou and Fei Yu-Ching couldn’t help but sing “peak after peak, to the skies”.
Since the early 1980s when Liang was in university, he was already an avant-garde and highly involved in the Silly Bird movement. Whilst he tried to make a living in architect, art is in his blood. Sanyi, the home of wood sculpture, was once Liang’s breeding ground for electric saws and sculpting tools. In fact, he started his career as a wood sculptor by removing elements. Even back then, he had his own unique approach. Since Huang Tu-shui, there has not been techniques like Liang’s in the history of fine arts in Taiwan. As far as the use of wood as the medium, Liang started a new chapter of his own.
3. Key to the Contemporary
Liang later developed “pluralism”, by combining different mediums and duplicating iron pieces. This was a great leap from the art of deletions to the art of additions. In fact, his deletions also come with a sense of additivity, by incorporating other materials, such as “Gravity Release” with a video, a golden mask with “In face of the Moon at Mid-Autumn Night中秋夜以此對明月”. The pluralism of heterogenous materials and iron duplications showcases Liang’s Nova Art of Additions. It is worth noting that the transition to new materials, particularly white iron and stainless steel, is a stark contrast with the Chinese artist Zhan Wang’s work, known for philosophical dialectics and formalist beauty. Zhan uses Western techniques and modern materials to reconstruct the East, particularly with the literature tradition of Chinese sculpture. This is the reason why Zhan’s is said to release the Chinese spirit and open a new vision in the history of Chinese sculpture.
In comparison, Liang’s own duplication of his white iron pieces contains more than the metaphysical essence similar with Zhan’s. What is more is Liang’s down-to-earth metaphor of the society in Taiwan. In other words, Liang’s work is abstract in style, close to stream-of-consciousness and almost surrealist. His many “devices”, such as Triangular Kamit (三角卡咪), “Whale Tail, Tiger Stripes (鯨尾虎斑), 801 Consciousness意載體, “This Is Not a Chair這不是一把椅子”, “This Is Not a Table這不是桌子” and “Book & Illegible Book”, are all surrealist. In a complete contrast with Juming’saxe-cut style with a touch of simplicity and straightforwardness from the farming villages of Taiwan in the 1970s, Liang’s work reflects the status of the mind and soul rendering in layers of post-industrial effects in Taiwan.In addition to wood sculpture, he also expresses the chills, glooms and darkness of stainless steel wrought with white iron. In Taiwan’s cultural integration and transition from the agricultural society to the commercial and industrial economy, Liang found the key to transform from traditions to the contemporary. He opened a path that fills in the gap from the historic discourse by Juming in Taiwan since the 1970s. Meanwhile, Liang also demonstrates the strength to defend both Xiang Jing and Zhan Wang from China, who represent “undermined humanity” and “light touch sculpture”, respectively.
In sum, Liang did not choose the realist path created by Juming. In both quality and quantity, Liang’s work is Nova Art of Additions, new and indigenous in Taiwan.
Ping-Cheng LIANG 梁 平 正